Archive for the ‘Compassion’ Category

The End of the Line- Stop seeking. Be.

Written by Kate • November 5, 2017 •
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End of the Line

Be Here. Now.

The End of the Line

There comes a point in each of our spiritual journeys that we know it’s time to stop seeking validation, knowledge, or input from any more external sources. No matter how enlightened the guru, skilled the expert, or inspiring the author, there comes a time when it’s time to just do the work.

The Work. Be Here.

Sit in stillness.

Listen to the silence.

Notice your thoughts and feelings rise up and float away.

No more seeking or fixing or trying.

Be here now.

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What Are Your Beliefs? How to Uncover the Unconscious Beliefs Running Your Brain

Written by Kate • November 3, 2017 •
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Break Free

Break Free From Unconscious Beliefs

What’s Running Your Brain?

There are lots of unhelpful unconscious thought patterns running your brain. Because they’re unconscious, meaning they are so ingrained in your neural pathways that once triggered, the thought patterns are nearly instantaneous and therefore essentially unknown to your conscious mind. I say “essentially unknown” because, in fact, it’s your brain and while you may not always be conscious of the thought pattern, with attention and stillness, you can be aware of the thoughts  and beliefs that arise, even in triggering situations, even if there isn’t anything you can do in that moment to counter the ingrained thought and resultant behavior pattern. While many of your thought patterns may be beneficial to you, some may be working against what it is you want from life.

What Do You Believe?

For example, as a child -and without blaming my parents for living their life based on their own thought patterns and beliefs, I learned that when you’ve had a really bad day, you have a stiff drink to help you calm down and manage your emotions. When you’ve been in a car accident, you have a stiff drink to help you calm down and manage your emotions. When you have a party or go out to eat, you have a drink to have fun. Party=drinking. Going out to eat=have a drink or two. One day in my early 20s, on a day with a few emotional upheavals, I started thinking about having a drink. I didn’t have any of my normal hooch in the house so I cast about for something else to drink. And I wondered why I needed a drink so much on this particular day. I then realized that with the ebbing of my emotional upheaval, in its wake I was left with a wrung-out feeling. And that wrung-out feeling meant, in a my habitual way of thinking, I needed a drink to fully calm down from the lows of my day. But really, did I need the drink? How about if I just felt my feelings instead? It was a novel concept: just deal with my bad day without the stiff drink that I was conditioned to think was normal (and necessary).

Later in life, I also learned, once I moved in my with partner 13 years ago, that despite being a feminist down to the bone, I believed that men take out the trash. That first month, the trash can got more and more full and I started wondering when the heck he was going to take out the trash. Finally, I just asked him when he was going to take it out. He looked at it me in wonder, asking me why I thought he would take it out? And I realized only then that I had an unconscious belief pattern that was running my brain without me being fully conscious of it. So I took out the trash and I take out the trash to this day, when it needs it and I’m the one who notices first.

I could go on and on about the beliefs I’ve uncovered with attention and inquiry. Over the years, I’ve become aware of many unconscious thought patterns and had glimpses of many more. I know I have or have had unconscious thought patterns and beliefs about money, how much money I should have, eating, travel, sex, relationships, healthy boundaries, spirituality, compassion, the Divine, and on and on and on ad infinitum.

Thought Patterns versus Beliefs

I use thought patterns and beliefs interchangeably here. There are more learned people than I who know about which is first, the thought pattern or the belief. I look at it as the chicken or the egg. Which came first is likely the thought pattern. And with repetition comes the belief. In regards to my belief about having a stiff drink, I remember my Mom came home one day when I was 9 years old or so. She was shaking and clearly distraught from a car accident she’d just been involved in. Dad immediately when to the liquor cabinet and got her drink, something like rum and coke or vodka and a mix. And she drank it and was much calmer for it. So I thought, “oh, that’s what you do to calm down. You have a drink.” First it was an external thought pattern that I held from seeing it repeated several times throughout my childhood and then an unconscious personal belief, as I began acting on that belief in my own early adulthood.

How To Undo Thought Patterns and Beliefs

There are many ways to uncover your thought patterns and beliefs. I think one of the easiest ways is to begin to be curious about what beliefs are running your brain. Always begin this type of inquiry with compassion. Don’t use this knowledge to beat yourself up for following your conditioned mind from belief to action. Just allow the knowledge to rise to your consciousness with curiosity about who you are and what’s going on in your brain.

These days, for me, because I meditate daily and have for several years. I know from these sessions how my thoughts come unbidden across my mind and how easy I can attach to and follow them. So it’s been easier for me to feel when a thought has hooked me and I am able to feel the unconscious thought pattern trigger me into a reaction. However, until I’m aware of the thought pattern, there’s nothing to be done to stop the triggered response.

The way I first began this inquiry into my unconscious beliefs was to ask the Divine to allow my to see my blind spots. I know I had them and in relationship with my partner and with my extended family, I could see and feel myself being triggered without being able to stop my conditioned response. So I just asked for these beliefs to be shown to me.

Because I want to be aware of my beliefs, I am increasingly aware of them. It’s just how it works.  When the thought pattern is not that important or so clearly irrational, it’s easier to substitute new thought patterns in its place. No, it’s not exclusively men’s job to take out the trash. Boom. Belief updated. Yes, I can have a bad day without having a stiff drink. (I have to say with that one, the pull remain strong and I remain confronted with the thought to have a drink after a bad day, so I know there are more unexamined thoughts beneath this behavior pattern plus years of habit!).

Some ways to become aware of your unconscious thought patterns and beliefs:

  1. Ask to become aware of them
  2. Seek out professional help with a therapist to uncover some of the bigger ones operating in your life
  3. Write your way to knowledge.
    1. Take a fresh sheet of paper. At the top of the paper, write “Here’s what I really believe about (subject)”.  (Money, Relationship, Food, Pleasure, You Name It)
    2. Begin to write in a stream of consciousness way without stopping or censoring yourself. State “I really believe that (subject) is … For example, I really believe money is hard to get, evil, corrupting, means selling your soul, etc. Or I really believe that relationship with someone else means the loss of myself, being chained to another person’s whims, etc.
    3. Keep going and write down at least 10 beliefs but try for more.
    4. Now that you’re aware of a negative belief that you’d like to change, try to tease out the thought patterns or belief under that belief. So if money is hard to get, what is the belief or thought pattern that supports that belief? Keep writing.
    5. Try on better feeling thought patterns and use a consciously created thought pattern as a response whenever the old belief arises, now that you can feel and/or know what the  conditioned, negative thought pattern is. For example, if you’ve believed that money is hard to get, what happens if you start thinking that money is easy to get, how does that feel? Can you believe that instead?
  4. With caution and care, ask a trusted and loving family member or friend what is one blind spot you have. Obviously, do this one with someone in your life who will tell you the truth about yourself in a way that isn’t finally the opportunity they’ve been waiting for to criticize you or go running with it as way to list your every perceived flaw. This is simply one thing in your life that they notice which it seems you’re not aware of.

Some Caveats

Some conditioned thought patterns are so deep and ingrained and arise so fast that they don’t cross your frontal cortex and you don’t have the opportunity to initially respond in a new and more thoughtful way. Be kind and compassionate to yourself in these circumstances (in every circumstance, ideally). Something profound in you is being triggered so don’t be dismayed if you can’t help yourself. (With the obvious exception if you’re engaging in harmful or self-harmful behavior. With these, you should get help immediately through professional help and remove yourself from the situation wherever possible).

If you can, just stop the triggered response. When you feel attacked and you’re in the middle of yelling back a response, just close your mouth and stop, even mid-sentence. Try to understand what thoughts arose in the situation and try to become aware of them. When you open your banking app, seeing your balance and feeling a wave of fear about to engulf you as you worry about all that needs to get paid, stand up and take a breath. Take a short walk and watch the thoughts that arise about fear, money, lack.

By engaging in new patterns as soon as you’re aware that you’ve been triggered,  you can start to unwind your conditioned response little by little even as the initial response is so fast and habitual that you can’t yet control it. And begin to start a new thought pattern that are helpful to you.

Willpower Doesn’t Help

An additional caveat- Don’t try to use willpower to change your response to unconscious thought or beliefs. It’s a losing proposition. You only have so much willpower and one day, you’ll be tired, hungry, or angry enough that your willpower will fail you and you’ll respond to the trigger in your conditioned behavior pattern based on your true/old beliefs.  Willpower is not a long term, permanent answer to negative thought patterns and beliefs.

Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life

By understanding what thoughts and beliefs are running your brain, you can replace them with more helpful and empowering thoughts.  Staying present with your thought despite a rising tide of conditioned responses will help you to understand and change your thinking- changing your life

More Resources

Steve Pavlina‘s blog is always a great source about conscious awareness and behavior change.

Martha Beck is always a great source. Period.

The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal Ph.D. This is a great book that goes over how effective, and limited, willpower really is. It also shows how industry and corporations are highjacking your instincts and what you can do to become aware and counter these tactics. It also helps you become of aware of your habitual actions.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. This is another book that describes the power and the limits of willpower and our conditioned thinking.

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt. This book was formative in my understanding about biology and thought patterns.  His most compelling concept is one where the author, a psychologist, notes the mind is like an elephant of conditioned desires and impulses. On top of the elephant is conscious intention as an ineffectual rider. So using your willpower as a jockey riding an elephant of desires and conditioned thinking, you can see how ineffective willpower is. Instead, delving into your beliefs is one of the most effective ways to change your behavior patterns.

Byron Katie is amazing for using inquiry to question our thoughts. She has a lot of free resources. If you’re looking to understand your triggers and blind spots (after you’re out of the profound trauma of fresh tragedy), I think her tools are amazing.

How about you? What has helped you uncover and change your conditioned response?

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Be The Change You Want In the World- Compassion

Written by Kate • October 26, 2017 •
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Inner Child- Girl on swing at sunset

Enjoying Being A Child

I’ve long wanted to be more compassionate with others and while I can be quite judgy and critical, I usually feel more compassion for others than I often feel for myself. I have been so hypercritical of myself for so long that I wasn’t sure I could change such ingrained behavior patterns. I’m reminded of this at every yoga class, during the finishing minutes of every class, my teachers would speak of first having compassion for ourselves and then for others in discussing “right” feelings.

I rarely could find compassion for myself. If I did my best and I still guessed wrong, I spent far too long castigating myself about how I should know better. If I seemingly caused conflict, I went over and over how I could have phrased things better so as to engender understanding and acceptance on the other party’s side. Up and down. Right and left. If there was anything other than the smoothest of sailings in my life at any level, I went over how I could have done better, been better, spoken more clearly, been less angry, more angry, etc.  On and on- always expecting better of myself.

The Inner Child

And then I learned about the concept of the inner child. I’d long heard of inner child work but never understood how it applied to me. In listening to Tosha Silver, she’s mentioned the inner child and has given me some great insights on how to be loving and kind to my inner child.  Over the months that I’ve been working on this, I see the value and need for inner child work.

The way I see the inner child(ren) is that inside you there is a spin off version of you from your childhood from when you were deeply wounded by life, by your parents, or some situation. At some point of time, you abandoned yourself in order to emotionally or physically survive a situation. In other words, to survive, you abandoned yourself and now there is an internal version of you that continues to speak to you, mostly from an unconscious level, from the original wounding.  And you can have more than one.

Like most everyone, we have situations that trigger us. These situations trigger us and in those initial moments after being triggered, if you learn to listen to your thoughts, you can likely hear the same recording from your inner child bringing up the wounding and trying to apply it this new situation. But often, the triggered reaction is so habitual that it’s now at the unconscious level and you’re likely  no longer aware that the same thought pattern is rising up again and again from a childhood wounding.

Understanding the Inner Child

Once I became aware of my inner child, I’ve been able to hear her so much more clearly and been able to work with her. For a long time, I thought my core fear was not being good enough. But I’ve realized that the reason I fear not being good enough is that I fear I will be abandoned if I’m not. My past makes so much more sense for me, now that I understand my true core fear and past situations when I’ve been triggered and overreacted. Sometimes my reaction to a situation baffled me by its intensity.

As an example, one that is both trivial and perhaps understandable to everyone: Recently, I had some houseguests and I served a meal. After the meal, I asked what they thought of it and they were lovingly honest. They said, “it wasn’t my favorite”. The next day, as I mused on the meal and my guests’ reaction, I started to get angrier and angrier at the thought that they didn’t like the meal I served. After several hours of periodically thinking about the meal, I was pretty upset at a deep level.  Now the conscious me was quite aware that my reaction was over the top and not rational or appropriate to the situation. But that’s how I felt. Now that I am aware of my inner child (and my core fear), I went inside to find out what was going on to provoke such a response.

And I came out again with my fear of abandonment. How did I jump from someone not loving a meal I prepared to fearing being abandoned? My inner child went from had the following sequence of thoughts and reactions:

  1. My guests didn’t like the meal
  2. I’m not as good a host as I thought because I should have known they wouldn’t like the meal
  3. They didn’t like the meal so I’m not good enough
  4. If my guest didn’t like the meal, they’ll never come back
  5. I’ll be abandoned

Again, it’s a silly situation but I truly got bent out of shape over my guests’ reaction. Because my core fear of being abandoned we triggered by this situation, I got very angry over it.

How To Be Compassionate With Yourself (And Your Inner Child)

I no longer care to spend much time understanding how I got here. The truth of this situation is that my inner child is deeply worried about being abandoned, as any child would be. With this perspective, I go inside and speak with my inner child. I comfort her and hold her and acknowledge her fears. As the adult here, I let her know that it’s ok and even if we were to be abandoned, I can take care of us. I no longer dismiss her feelings out, ignore her, or tell her she’s silly for feeling any particular way. I accept what is, act lovingly to my inner child, and heal a little bit more of the original wounding.

Through honest inquiry, even as I saw how strangely overblown my reaction was, I was able to find deep compassion for my inner child who feels she has to be perfect or she’ll be abandoned.

Being The Change

As I started to be more compassionate with the myself, through my inner child work, I am able to be more compassionate with the world. By allowing myself, at a conscious level, to be less than perfect, I have more compassion for others as we muddle through life.

More Resources

Tosha Silver  Tosha’s amazing at surrendering to the Divine and she has a lot of experience with the inner child.

Matt Licata    Matt’s blog, as a psychotherapist, is so lyrical and so healing. I highly recommend his work in general.

Thich Nhat Hanh   The renowned Buddhist monk has a book on healing the inner child through reconciliation. This is an excerpt from the book.

 

How about you? I’d love to hear about your experiences with your inner child (and how it’s changed you!).

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Are you experiencing compassion?

Written by Kate • June 28, 2011 •
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Image thanks to helovesus

In my post last week in working on the Root Chakra, I suggested that you set aside 10 minutes a day for some meditation designed to center and ground you. Beginning at the lowest chakra is the best place to start when you’re working with your chakras and most of them are imbalanced.

Loving-Kindness Meditations

I suggested a few minutes of loving-kindness meditations as follows:

After your 5 minutes of imperfect meditation, say the following loving-kindness affirmations to yourself -three times. This should take less than 1 minute. But put your heart into it and really bless yourself with these loving affirmations.

  • May I be well.
  • May I know peace.
  • May I be free from suffering

Here is another way to practice loving-kindness meditations.

Implementing These Affirmations

I implemented my daily meditation practice several months ago and I regularly meditate at least 30 minutes each day. It was a slowish evolution to go from 5 minutes to 30 minutes of meditation in one sitting and I really resisted meditation in the beginning. Now it seems my day is scattered and incomplete if I don’t get my meditation in first thing.

Sunday, I dedicated my meditation practice to these loving-kindness meditations. I repeated the above affirmations over and over again. However, with some sort of internal inspiration, I added in “May I know compassion”.

Instant Suffusion of Love

After I said this affirmation, I felt an incredible suffusion of love and peace encompass my body. It was simple yet transformative. I felt, at the same time, lit up inside and at a deep peace. For a time, without my volition, the compassion was directed at myself and it was a beautiful moment. And then it moved on to those in my life and I felt such profound love for them that any residual judgments or criticism I may have been harboring seemed to just melt away. And that was an even more beautiful moment.

And from there, my compassion moved to the world – to the Middle East, the subcontinent of Asia, China, and beyond. It ended full circle to come back and rest with me. What grace!

It was so moving that I practiced the same affirmations again Monday during meditation.  I realized that I sometimes feel sorry for myself and I often feel compassion for others but I rarely feel compassion for myself. It created a sense of forgiveness, of love, of space so that I can accomplish more in this life without the harsh judgement of the internal critic.

It’s at the heart of Byron Katie‘s work and by practicing it, I see its power.

How Often Do You Feel Compassion for Yourself?

How often do you feel compassion for yourself? Or do you hear your internal critic so often that you’ve identified with all that you can’t do well or the mistakes you’ve made in the past?

Given yourself the compassion that you would give your friend. Accord yourself the same level of love and acceptance that you give to everyone else.

Try It Yourself

Take a few minutes to get into a calm place. This can be a few minutes of meditation or a series of breathing in for a count of 4, holding it for a count of 4, and breathing out for a count of 8. Do the breathing cycle three times. Then do the loving kindness meditation as follows and put your heart into it and really bless yourself with these loving affirmations.

  • May I be well.
  • May I know peace.
  • May I know compassion.

You may well find that the more compassion you feel for yourself will magnify the compassion you feel towards others. It’s a virtuous cycle – the very opposite of a downward cycle.

Let me know how it goes. Did something shift in you? Can you feel the light and the love?

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